ERIC Number: EJ990505
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012-Oct-1
Goodbye, Podium: An Engineering Course Puts Theory into Practice
Connor, Kenneth A.
Chronicle of Higher Education, Oct 2012
When students complete a lab experiment at home or in a staffed lab on campus, they come to class better able to explain what they have done and why they think the approach is correct, and to provide explanations or questions about any problems they encountered. What is so cool is that the learning experience has all the key aspects of the complete engineering-design cycle--no matter where the students do the work. The combination of traditional paper-and-pencil calculations, simulation, and experimentation leading to a practical system model makes it possible for them to think and act much more like practicing engineers. At Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), they call this hands-on approach the Mobile Studio Project (mobilestudioproject.com). The author explains how this approach grew out of some expensive studio classrooms (about $10,000 per seat) that RPI built in the 1990s to bring multiple engineering activities into one well-outfitted room. Each station had a full set of lab equipment, a desktop computer, and tables for taking lecture notes and doing hand calculations. There was a natural progression from introducing a topic and advancing to paper and pencil, simulation, and experiments, with breaks for group and one-on-one discussions. Maybe there was an hour of lecture or maybe 10 minutes, but after that the class would try something. More often than not, the class began with a demonstration or a hands-on activity. He asserts that a portable electronics course is the future of engineering education.
Descriptors: Engineering Education, Engineering, Learning Experience, Computer Assisted Instruction, Electronic Learning, Theory Practice Relationship, Higher Education, Laptop Computers, Laboratory Experiments
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: New York